Christmas Carnage is a new XBLIG developed by Bandana Games. It is a twin-stick shooter where players take on the role of a fairy that must discover the true meaning of the holiday season by destroying “everything that is rubbish about Christmas.”
There are 21 total levels with enemies such as renegade snowmen, deadly candy canes, Christmas trees, and finger-cutting holly. At the start of each level there is a brief explanation as to why that enemy must be destroyed. For example, the intro to one level reads, “a treat in the shape of a man. Who would want to eat that?” This of course is the prelude to a bunch of angry-looking gingerbread men suddenly filling your screen.
Christmas Carnage plays pretty much like any twin-stick shooter. The left analog moves you around and the right shoots in that direction. There are tons of weapon power ups such as a laser, rapid fire, spread gun, etc. Enemies come at you in waves with a lot of variety in size, speed, and erratic movement patterns. The game is actually pretty challenging, even just on normal difficulty. There are also easy and hard difficulty settings which increase or decrease the amount of enemies respectively. Christmas Carnage supports up to four player local co-op which is best played on hard so as to maximize the carnage.
Once you beat the game, you’ll also unlock arena mode which basically just throws all types of enemies at you in one never-ending wave where you must survive as long as possible.
Christmas Carnage is decently developed but is not without its problems. One of the best parts of playing through it the first time is reading the explanations for each level. A lot of them make sense and can actually be pretty funny. Unfortunately, the enemies start to appear on your screen before the statement even finishes. Trying to finish reading the text can end up getting you killed. Couldn’t the wave have just started a few seconds later?
Another problem is that you can’t switch your power up if you already have one active. You have to wait until the full timer on your current power up runs out (or until you die) to pick up something else.
The graphics aren’t very impressive, either. It almost looks like the game was made using clip art from MS Word and the fairy you control just looks…well, silly.
One other feature that is usually included in these types of games but strangely missing from Christmas Carnage is leaderboards. Being that the game is based on attaining high scores it would have been nice to actually have a leaderboard with your high scores on them, even if it was just a local one. Aside from just showing the all-time high score during each game, there is no leaderboard at all.
Christmas Carnage is worth the 80 Microsoft Point price tag during the holiday season, but really isn’t anything special the other 11 months out of the year. I also can’t help but feel a little Grinch-like when shooting Santa in the face.